American Pie Reviewby "Roger Gerbig" (rgerbig AT thegrid DOT net)
July 14th, 1999
AMERICAN PIE (1999)
WITH: JASON BIGGS, CHRIS KLEIN, THOMAS IAN NICHOLAS
DIRECTOR: PAUL WEITZ
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Oh, to be the nice guy...and actually win for a change. That, if you'll allow me to get slightly philosophical for a moment, seems to be one of the key themes behind "American Pie", that perverse Home Economics lesson now playing down at your multiplex. Or, if you're a Hollywood exec, or one who likes to sit at home and play Hollywood exec (I like to think I play one on TV, for example), the theme might appear to be "everything old is new again." Or, "what comes around goes around." You see, "Pie" is like a late nineties remake of "Porky's", with the requisite twists. With all the doubling up of condoms, they could have called this one "Pigs in a Blanket."
And no, I wouldn't have complained.
But let's get back to deconstructing the Pie, which appears the media is trying to turn into a spectator sport for the duration of the summer. Don't let them. Not only is there little to deconstruct here, the flick is enough of a spectator sport in and of itself to warrant little popcorn-laced pontificating after the fact.
The high concept on display here is watching four perfectly average and perfectly nice guys wallow in an increasing surreal world of masturbatory mishaps. Mostly, these happen to the generally innocuous Jim (Biggs), which serves to bring him all that much closer to his clique of friends who spontaneously decide after one particularly frigid beer-soaked evening, that they must band together and form a little blood cult if any of them ever hopes to get some action before D-Day--I mean, Senior Prom.
But in typically late-90s fashion, rather than sign a pact (in blood, of course!) with an unholy spawn of Satan, they agree to form what amounts to a little support group. Yup, when the going gets rough, or fails to get going altogether, they'll chime in with a little well-deserved support for the poor libidinous sod left to his own devices after another failed attempt at gaining maturity.
Of course, in high movie fashion, the flick ends the morning after the Prom and the impossibly Hollywood-esque party that follows. And amongst our little group of friends, there are the typical smiles of accomplishment, little moral lessons floating about in their heads, and a wave of nostalgia so instant, it makes VH-1 look as fresh as PBS in between pledge drives.
True, unless you're a hopeless prude, or vying for an internship at "The 700 Club", you'll laugh and laugh until the fateful moment your Coke makes a safe passage through your sinuses. But we're talking about extremely cheap thrills here. Unlike, for instance, "There's Something About Mary", the best stuff wasn't left out of the trailer.
For the most part, the guys mulls about like a bunch of mostly well-behaved B-average students on their way to Big-10 universities in the fall. Which, I might add, the flick points out on occasion after occasion. They're extremely likeable, but not charismatic to say the least. Even Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas), the resident geek and sophisticate of the gang, isn't so weird that he won't be able to pick up quality dates down at the library once he makes it to U-State or wherever his student loans take him.
The girls, on the other hand, are the fascinating folks in this story. Unfortunately, unlike other aspects of their character, their roles are a tad underdeveloped. Natasha Lyonne, who ruled the indie world for a few weeks last year in "The Slums of Beverly Hills", begs for a spin-off starring her worldly-wise Jessica. I think she gets all of eight or nine minutes of screen time here. And Alyson Hannigan will probably spend a few months in the limelight for her captivating "Band Camp" schtick. Both will then move onto bigger and better projects.
As will this critic. Make it a matinee, if you must.
©1999 Roger Gerbig
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